Image © Rashi Karkoon
“Architecture is the mother of all arts.”, rightly put by Frank Llyod Wright, architecture is a perfect amalgamation of science with arts of all kinds. Without a well-thought architecture, it’s hard to imagine a community thrive. Shelter being one of the necessities to survive, it cannot be ignored that easily. A field that holds such prominence in our lives, does it or can it affect the health and well-being of patients or any human for that matter? With the year 2020, all hospitals saw a tragic yet tremendous rise in the number of patients due to COVID-19. Along with it, the said virus has brought many questions yet to be answered, can architecture help to prevent COVID-19 contraction? How will architecture change in the future? Will it change its course of development all over, with preference given to physical distancing and health more than anything else? But a question that remains yet to be asked, can architecture help in the healing process?
Since 1984, Roger S. Ulrich’s work has proved how patients and their visitors can heal from architecture and design while benefiting economically as well. However, the sudden arrival of the virus did not give us enough time to develop an architecture that helps in recovering but can still maintain the social isolation with all measures. But since when do we need to build or construct something permanent to create spaces? We surely can’t build a hundred numbered beds or multi-storeyed hospital instantly but who is to say that we cannot create spaces beneficial for someone's health. “It is a new order health crisis,” says Dr.K Srinath Reddy, President, Public Health Foundation of India, and after many months of fighting and understanding the virus, many strategies have been implemented to make the existing spaces not only beneficial for physical health but also mental and spiritual well-being. A Mumbai-based architect Shantanu Poredi, who has designed many medical projects like Mumbai’s Kokilaben Hospital and the 250-bed multi-specialty Reliance Hospital, believes we need to shift our focus from improving the intensive care zones to reimagining the whole hospital space, with basics like ventilation and flexibility given equal importance.
Ar. Shantanu Poredi has started reworking his earlier designs along with redesigning his upcoming projects adhering to the current situations. He has introduced sliding doors, touch-free and remote-controlled switches, handles, and other touch-free technology to minimize the contact for public use. "Retrofitting old hospital buildings is tough but compulsorily everything needs to be pushed behind protective screens now", says Prof. Anil Dewan, Head of Building 2 Engineering and Management at School of Planning & Architecture Delhi. Replacing curtains and blinds with smart glass partition screens that are easy to clean and maintaining with long-lasting surface disinfectants, developing more open spaces, preferably green, around the hospital, and installing cubicles with antimicrobial coated walls along with other mobile constructions have become the way to develop the existing healthcare facilities according to the current needs. However, the answer to the question of healing architecture does not only lie in upgrading the current facilities but redesigning all upcoming projects as well.
With the COVID-19 becoming the largest shared experience among the population of the world, the expectations from medical architecture have increased, from providing not only comfort and a resting place but positivity and a calm environment too for the healing process. With the more humanized environment and green spaces given equal importance, hospital space design has been moving in a different and new direction. “Contemporary Architecture has taken up the mission to heal,” says Ar. Philip Wong, at LWK+PARTNERS using his latest project Shijiazhuang Zhao Hua Hospital Development in China as an example. It has become the changing face of healthcare spaces and the role of design in improving people’s experience in these complex facilities for the country. The project is constructed to be much more than a healthcare facility but to be also a community space for people to come and heal mentally and spiritually. At a global level, a shift in healthcare facilities has been seen with if not more than equal importance given to civic, cultural, and green areas along with medical zones. Earlier, the cultural and the possible activity zones for visitors were placed in corners with plants being avoided in medical areas, as it was believed to promote bacterial growth and cause sanitation problems due to lack of drainage. However, with technological advancements, interior green spaces have been made possible with more new design strategies emerging for the well-being of the patients but at the same time for their visitors, to reduce their stress. Roger S. Ulrich’s work is re-emerging with a more-than-ever recognized importance for healing architecture.
As 2020 gets over, the news of a vaccine for the COVID-19 increases, and the predictions for future waves are announced, frontline warriors have to be ready to fight the virus all over again. At the same time, the general public has to get accustomed, if still not yet, to the masks and prolonged social distancing. Lockdowns and curfews have already become a common word for the times and yet, they are going to be used more. Amidst everyone, where do we, as architects, stand? Do we just wear masks and design buildings to follow the function of the space? Or incorporate the needs and necessity of the times in our designs? With people’s lives (with all aspects; Physical, Mental, Spiritual) at cost, the choice of the answer of choosing a new 3 approach to healthcare facilities design is made quite easy. People recover best when services are efficient, facilities are friendly and care is at hand, and in this process of healing, architects are important even though hidden aspect. Design has to realize its healing powers and architects need to utilize this to design spaces that hold the power to guide people through their healing process. In the future, hospitals might not remain a place people would be scared of going to but a place, which gives hope, positivity and becomes a symbol of life and health.
1. https://www.archdaily.com/939969/architecture-of-healing-post-emergency-andrecovery, accessed December,13,2020.
3. “Reimagining Hospitals in Post-COVID world”, The Hindu, Soma Basa, https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/reshaping-hospitals-in-post-covidworld/article32373025.ece, accessed December, 13, 2020.
4. “Health, Covid-19 and the healing power of architecture”, World Architecture News, AndrewMcCorkell,https://www.worldarchitecturenews.com/article/1686576/healthcovid-19-healing-power-architecture, accessed December, 13, 2020.
5. “The hidden, healing power of Design”, BBC, Emily Cowling, https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20171110-the-hidden-healing-power-of-design, accessed December, 14, 2020.
6. “Evidence-based design for reducing infection”, (2006), Roger S. Ulrich.
7. “A Conversation with Roger Ulrich”, Healthcare Design, https://www.healthcaredesignmagazine.com/architecture/conversation-roger-ulrich/, accessed December, 12, 2020.
NAME: RASHI KARKOON
Currently an architecture student with a passion for writing. Trying to explore architecture and design with words and a fresh perspective. Always curious to learn new things in life while living it to the fullest.